The International Well Building Institute (IWBI) provides one of the world’s leading standards to improve health and wellbeing through the design and operation of the built environment. Based on significant multi-disciplinary research with input from both health and built environment professionals, the standard provides seven key concepts to help create healthier and more productive environments and cultures.


1. AIR

Poor air quality is estimated to be responsible for 40,000 premature deaths per year in the UK alone (7 million deaths globally). It has also been demonstrated to have a significant impact on workplace productivity and learning rates in classrooms. Promoting strategies to maximise indoor air quality can therefore have a significant impact on your business. Some simple things to address include:

  • Adopt stringent air quality standards

  • Moisture management

  • Increased ventilation

  • Operable windows

  • Outdoor fresh air

  • Toxic material reduction

  • Cleaning: consider the products used to clean your environment (and when this is done), to reduce exposure to harmful chemicals



Access to clean drinking water is a prerequisite for optimal health. Over one billion people lack access to safe drinking water worldwide and this is responsible for over 2 million deaths per year. In the developed world this is less problematic, however, promoting access to good quality drink water is still important and often overlooked. The following are important considerations: 

  • Adopt stringent water quality standards

  • Remove containments

  • Periodically test water quality

  • Promote access to good quality drinking water



Poor diet is a major contributing factor to obesity, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. It therefore impacts on our health in a multitude of ways. The WHO estimates that over 2.7 million deaths worldwide are attributed to insufficient fruit and vegetable intake, making it one of the top 10 risk factors contributing to global mortality. Strategies that encourage better eating and a healthy food culture can therefore offer significant benefits for people and organisations. Simple things to consider include:

  • Fruit and vegetable variety

  • Reduction in processed foods

  • High quality food preparation areas

  • Healthy serving sizes

  • Responsible food production

  • Good quality food storage

  • Mindful eating areas



In addition to allowing us to see, light influences the human body in a range of non-visual ways. Changes in light influences our natural patterns and body clocks (circadian rhythms) and multiple physiological processes. These include those relating to alertness, digestion and sleep. Promoting lighting that increases alertness, enhances experience and promotes sleep is therefore extremely important for optimum wellbeing and productivity. Important considerations include:

  • Brightness management strategies

  • Circadian lighting design

  • Glare control

  • Light colour quality

  • Responsive light control

  • Access to daylight

  • Healthy sunlight exposure

  • Uniform lighting



Regular physical activity is essential to achieve optimal health. It can control obesity and prevent a range of chronic diseases. However, our modern lives, including our transport systems and sedentary jobs, have created an environment and culture of physical inactivity. 60 percent of all people globally do not get the recommended daily minimum of 30 minutes moderate intensity physical activity. Developing strategies that encourage the integration of exercise and fitness into everyday life can help address these statistics. Promoting the following are small steps that can have a big influence:

  • The use of stairs

  • Activity incentive programs

  • Active transportation including facilities that promote walking and cycling

  • Neighbourhood connectivity

  • Active furnishings such as standing desks

  • Fitness equipment


6. Comfort

Repeatedly, employee surveys highlight a range of comfort factors including acoustics, ergonomics, temperatures and smells. These have a variety of physical and mental impacts. These include musculoskeletal disorders (which account for more than one third of the total number of days away from work). Additionally, aspects relating to acoustics can have a significant impact on mental stress leading to poor satisfaction, productivity and wellbeing. Thermal comfort is another factor with only a minority of buildings meeting accepted goals of occupant satisfaction. Key factors to consider in the creation of a comfortable and distraction free and productive environment include:

  • Accessible design

  • Visual & physical ergonomics

  • Acoustic planning

  • Thermal comfort

  • Personal control over environment


7. Mind

The global burden of mental health illnesses is significant; in 2010 mental?? it is estimated that more than 14% of deaths each year are attributable to mental health disorders. Life expectancy among those with mental illness is more than 10 years less, than those without. A range of design features and workplace policies that include the following considerations can positively impact sleep, stress levels and promote health and wellbeing:

  • Stakeholder orientation

  • Beauty in design

  • Incorporation of biophilia

  • Healthy sleep policies

  • Healthy business travel

  • Altruism & charitable activities

  • Operational transparencies

  • Post-occupancy surveys

Want to know more?

For the past two decades the 3ADAPT team have been developing strategies that improve people’s health and wellbeing. These incorporate many of the concepts and features of the WELL Building Standard. Our director, Phil Hampshire was one of the first people in the UK to be awarded the WELL Accredited Professional (WELL AP) qualification. We also have significant experience of applying other models to improve wellbeing such as the 5 Ways to Wellbeing.

For more information on how you can improve the health and wellbeing of your staff, customers, or communities please contact Phil Hampshire.